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is wrong. one set of rules for everybody. >> fair enough. >> thank you. my anger -- i feel a little better. >> that will do it for us. i am dylan ratigan. chris matthews up now with "hardball." rebels without a cause. let's play "hardball." good evening. i'm chris matthews up in washington. leading off tonight, survivor alabama and mississippi edition. somebody could get voted off the island. mitt romney needs one win tonight to prove he can win in the south. just one win for him will do it rick santorum needs one win to remain mitt romney's chief rival. and they can't all win one state, so something has to give down south. polls close in three hours, at 8:00 eastern time.
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an msnbc will bring you up to the minute coverage as the votes come in. at 11:00 p.m. eastern, we'll have a full wrapup of the day's voting. gingrich and santorum need to deliver a knockout blow to the other, and tonight we'll talk to top strategists for both candidates. meanwhile x we have a second poll saying steep gas prices are going up and taking a toll on president obama's popularity. is there anything a president can do to lower gas prices? most people think there is. if possible, mitt romney has set a new standard for pandering. imagine that. a new standard for pandering, y'all. that's in the sideshow. finally, let me finish with how close this election is getting to look and not just on the republican side, but also in the general election. we begin with the alabama and mississippi primaries were held today. chuck todd is chief white house correspondent and michael steele is chairman of the republican national party and an msnbc
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political analyst. let's see how long we agree. there are several possible outcomes. there's two states. how many outcomes can there be from the votes tonight in mississippi and alabama. first, let's say santorum wins both tonight. if that happens, that means newt gets blown out of the race, i think. and santorum secures the position of clearly number-one challenger to mitt romney. let's stop. here's another possibility. gingrich could win both tonight. he's from that area. he's from georgia. that could hit santorum, which helps romney. it keeps him in the race. third, you could have a gingrich/santorum split tonight. each one winning a state. if that happens, no big changes. finally, romney could take one of the states, say mississippi. that's big for romney because if he wins mississippi and newt wins alabama, that's very bad for santorum and very good for romney. that's my view. let's go through your thinking.
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>> i agree with that. >> all that? >> i agree those are the basic four scenarios. i guess i agree with their likely hoods. you look at this by the numbers, and you cannot figure out how romney gets the 30%. i'm stunned at the states. georgia, south carolina -- >> let's look at the numbers. >> 28%. do you see a pattern? however, the romney people are cautiously optimistic like they were in tennessee. >> they are spending a load of money. most of it negative. >> and number three, when you look at a mississippi, its republican party is still fairly young. it's a conservative state, but they've only had competitive primaries for a short period of time. a lot of them stayed democratic and voted. the establishment still has a lot of control inside the mississippi republican party. less that way in alabama.
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but it's more so -- henry, the nephew who basically is the family's politics operationally, he's with romney. >> let's go to michael. these are white people basically. white southerners. we know their views. not particularly in love with mormons. recently, accepted catholics as christians like them. i'm being brutal here. wait until you see these numbers. most don't believe in evolution. they have conservative views about our culture. what do you think is the situation down there? can romney win down there? >> i think romney can. i think mississippi could be a good playground for romney. it's a fairly new political environment for them in terms of, you know, the way their primary is set up. so you still have romney tied to
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the barber clan. has the opportunity to use that network to get that vote out. but this is, you know, one of those situations if romney wins mississippi tonight and newt or santorum takes the other, it doesn't change really the dynamics in terms of that march towards 1,144 votes. the reality for romney remains the fact that give him all the outstanding winner take all state, the rest are proportional. he's not going to pull the majority of the vote. but as chuck has pointed out, that's not been the trend line here. so i think we're going to see a little more status quo ante coming out of tonight that a lot of people anticipate. >> i'm watching romney. you can't see this, michael. here's romney doing his local shaking hands. he reminds me of prince charles in new guinea. you have the elite britt going out to meet the people from a totally different culture.
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he's talking in their language and using some of the slang. it doesn't seem like he's connecting to these people. frankly, newt gingrich has never been goot at this either. as awkward as romney looks campaigning in the south, i haven't been all that impressed with santorum doing this. >> you're saying none of them connect? >> newt gingrich, he's the southerner in the race. he was born and raised in pennsylvania. >> let's stick with romney. i think romney is uniquely unqualified to connect with regular folk. here he is. here are a few reasons why. let's watch him in action. prince charles in new guinea. >> i'm learning to say y'all. i like grits and strange things are happening to me. >> morning, y'all. good to be with ya. i got started right this morning with a biscuit and some cheesy grits. >> southern girls, from 12 to --
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well, a lot more than 12. >> last night i was in mississippi and had pancakes for the second time. >> get jeff foxworthy over here. >> hey, you, blue collar workers out there. >> it's not natural to him, but at the same time, it's not natural to santorum and newt -- you know, newt is the worst of all these guys. he sits behind a podium at every event. he doesn't even try. romney, for all of the flaws he's been, he's clearly not a good ad lib campaigner, but he tries. >> a republican strategist in alabama, who we only hear from in these campaigns, he told the boss "if you're going to pander, at least pander well, and this isn't pandering well." you know, pandering is what
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politicians do. whatever market, the old days, cheese steaks in new york. this is the most oafish example of pandering. i don't know what you make of it. >> that's the point. it's almost becoming a characterture of a candidate running for president. i'll agree with chuck. the other two aren't doing a bang up job at it either, but you're not playing their clips. those clips -- you know, they aren't so egregious that they stand out. with romney it stands out because it's obvious he's trying too hard. he needs to relax with it. you go to the south and talking y'all. what happens in the general election and you're up in harlem? what are you going to say them within you're not going to start, you know, talking all hip hop. so just be yourself. relax about it. show people you care about the
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country. you have an agenda that shows how you care for them, and i think that will lessen the talk about him connecting with people. >> clinton could go north and south easily. >> obama does the same thing. they drop their gs. they go south of the mason dixon line and they drop the g's. >> does this guy care about people like me and you? two questions we ask in politics. is this country going in the right direction or not? that's a question mark still. second, does this person care about people like you and me? let's look at romney falling into the old trap and saying he's with the rich people. we're going to get this thing. he's talking about the nfl owners. he isn't just talking sports. here's romney talking about his rich friends. remember he told racing fans he had rich nascar owners. here he is yesterday being interviewed on a sports radio
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show asking about peyton manning and where he might end up. romney talked about his friends who happen to own football teams. let's listen. >> i'm surprised to hear that denver is thinking about him. i don't want him in our neck of the woods. let's put it that way. i don't want him to go to miami or the jets. i have a lot of good friends. the owner of the miami dolphins and also the jets are friends of mine. but let's keep him away from new england. >> well, he's throwing in a little al roker there. a little neck of the woods. there's a patented phrase if there ever was one. but he's showing some knowledge of division. then he talks about consorting with the owners. is this helpful? >> it's getting to the wrong narrative, but you do identify. >> i love the way you talk.
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>> the narrative he's been tripping over himself. which is this, it's do i understand the problems of average americans that live in the suburbs of philadelphia or whether it's birmingham frankly. and that's where he is certainly struggling. and he's got to fix that. you're right about the direction of the country. and you're right about the connection issue. what romney is doing is giving an obama an opening with a set of voters that the obama folks thought they would be struggling with. which is the sort of middle income, white, working class voter who is up for grabs. >> i think it's interesting, michael. it seems to me it's going to be great to watch these guys on television should it come down to romney and obama. here you have this well-born, elite guy, a mixed background by our terms in this country.
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it's just going to be so fascinating to see them up against each other for four hours both trying to grab that connection that we're talking about. >> it could be the tale of two americans and how these guys are struggling to ewe neat them and not really necessarily represent one or the other. bringing all that middle class energy you just described to the table. as well as those who have become successful as examples of what we aspire to. how romney communicates that is going to be key here. obama, we know, will talk the language and do the level of pandering that a good politician needs to do effectively. but i think for romney, you know, when he gets a moment like that and talking sports and the jockish stuff, don't say two of my friends are owners of the team. i was talking to a couple of the fellas and they were talking about the division matchup. in other words, bring it to a point where people, you know,
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yeah you may have been talking about the owners, but you don't need to tell me that. i may assume that, but bring it to a point where you don't have to tell me every relationship you have. just let me know you've got something that's close to where i am. >> i'm sure you'll be close range to help us do the play by play and the color. thank you, michael steele. and chuck todd, thank you. polls will be closed at 8:00 eastern in alabama and mississippi. we'll be all night long. regular scheduled shows it give you the information. coming up, two sons of the south. former senators trent lod and johnny bro to handicap race. you're watching "hardball," only on msnbc. oast forest fresh full tank brain freeze cake donettes rolling hot dogs bag of ice anti-freeze wash and dry diesel self-serve fix a flat jumper cables
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what a big state that's going to be. then louisiana next saturday. we have a new poll from louisiana. let's check the "hardball" score board. rick santorum a four-point lead over mitt romney in the new wwl poll with newt a close third. that's in louisiana. and louisiana is keeping up with the pattern we have seen elsewhere. romney is doing well in the big city suburbs while santorum and gingrich are stronger in the rest of the state. that makes sense. we'll be right back. [ male announcer ] you are a business pro. omnipotent of opportunity.
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welcome back to "hardball." as we mentioned earlier, alabama and mississippi might just whittle down the republican field to a two-man race. the polls are all over the place however. it's hard to predict what's going to happen tonight. it's fascinating. we have two natives. experts on dixie politics. former senate leader trent lott of mississippi and former democratic senator johnny bro.
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i love that. you must have put that on there. let's go to jackson, mississippi. the beautiful downtown. how is it going to go tonight? let's talk about this. there's a pattern that's emerged here tonight. romney can't seem to break, whether it's his lds religion. look at the numbers. show them again. we have them in green. 28%, 26%, 28%, 26%. he can't break high numbers. >> he might make it to 30. i think he's been the underdog. he was down 30 points a month ago. he could very well win it in mississippi. i think people would be astounded to see him do that. >> what about all this y'all crap of his? >> you know, look. eat a little cat fish and grits, he called them cheesy grits or
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whatever. >> but it is cheese grits. not cheesy grits. >> they may have had it on the menu. i don't know. ordinarily, you say cheese grits. >> what's that place in new orleans? >> mothers. they don't serve cheesy grits at mothers. >> if he would eat a poe boy, he would be a better candidate. >> people in the south may think president obama is a muslim, but they know that governor romney is a mormon. it makes them uncomfortable. they feel it's sort of a cult. he can say cheesy grits and y'all all he wants, but that's the basic problem. >> why don't they tell that to pollsters? the polls are showing them even. the governor of alabama, here he is yesterday on fox tv. he said he didn't endorse anybody, but he voted for santorum today. he responded to that question
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about whether mitt romney's mormon faith might play a role today. >> will mitt romney's religion be an issue in your state, governor? >> well, i think that's a very subtle issue that probably may be a problem in many states, not just in alabama. but i do believe that republicans are looking to see who can win the presidency and they are going to look at that more than anything else. >> he was right about that, chris. i thought we put your faith aside back with kennedy when we said, look, we're not going to determine how we vote for a man or woman based on their religion. and mississippi is going to show tonight that we have risen above that. we want to know who is going to do something about the economy and energy policies. >> let's look at fresh murm numbers. let's look at this on evolution. this is just cultural. alabama, do you believe in
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evolution? 26% say yes. 60% say no. in mississippi, only 22%. that's cultural. it's the bible. it's the fundamental reading of the bible. why do people answer that when they know about anthropology and the bones? >> we're not going to get into a discussion today about the bible. we bereave in god. we want to know who is going to be president. >> we're not going to let this become a discussion about religion. >> i think gingrich will carry alabama. santorum has a good chance of carrying mississippi. neither one of those states is romney going to get over 30% of the vote. he hasn't been put it together in any state. >> you said in the country is beyond religion. what's the religion of the president of the united states right now? they give him 14% think he's
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christian in alabama. muslim, they give him 45%, although he's denied it. not sure. there's a sweet answer. 41% say i'm not sure. in other words, he might be lying to me. in mississippi, your state, one in eight say he's a fellow christian. 52% say he's a muslim. and 36% say we're not sure. up to 88% of the people don't buy the fact he's a christian. isn't that a problem for the president? you say religion doesn't matter anymore. i'm just asking. >> you're talking about something that doesn't matter. when a man or woman tells you their faith, you accept them. >> but they don't in your state. the majority say he's a muslim. >> but that's not going to affect the vote. >> even if they are voting for a muslim? this is getting hilarious. you say it doesn't matter. you're laughing at me. you say it doesn't matter.
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then they say i o don't believe he is what he says he is. >> of course, it matters. people like to vote for someone they feel that they can associate with both from a religious standpoint, cultural standpoint, and that is part of romney's problems in the south. he's not from the south. he doesn't sound like he's from the south. he's not a christian according to many. >> how do you explain he's running strong in both mississippi and alabama? a lot of people in the media -- >> the same polls have your people down in mississippi only one in eight saying the president is what he says he is, a christian. but you don't believe that poll. you gave me trouble when i mentioned the evolution poll saying you people don't believe in science down there. 66% don't believe in science. but your candidate, believe every number.
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>> let's think about what we're talking here. you're talking about poll numbers on evolution instead of talking about the economy. what are we going to do about the price of gasoline? that's what we want to be talking about. >> that's not what the campaign is talking about down there. they are having to address those cultural issues in the south. having said that, those states are not going to vote for the democratic president obama in the november election. that's a given. the question of the nominee, i think it's going to go on for several more months. the republicans made a big mistake in dragging it out as long as they have. >> what's it going to be like in t tampa? we're going to get a rel real summer because we have springtime already. 100-degree humidity in late august. a bunch of tea party types who don't believe in evolution, think the president is a muslim, they are getting together and they are going to pick this
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yankee. this guy from massachusetts who was pro-choice just like the president. he's probably for civil unions like the president. they are going to make him their hero? >> first of all, chris, we are part of the country now. we're going to nominate mitt romney to be president of the united states. we're going to have a great convention. we're going to keep the goal that really matters in mind, and that is, who is our best candidate to defeat barack obama, and that is mitt romney. >> so you don't care if the guy that fixing your computer is from bangladesh as long as he fixes the computer. in other words, you'll nominate anybody who can beat obama. >> i care. and i think i picked mine. the one i think will be the best candidate. that's mitt romney. >> your voters will vote for romney with a full heart?
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>> they will vote for romney with a full heart. >> they -- >> you're talking about obama. i'm talking about mitt romney. >> okay. >> i think you're going to have newt gingrich at the convention. i think you're going to have santorum at the convention. and you're going to have sarah palin at the convention. they are all going to be arguing they are the most logical choice for people who believe as they do and not romney. he has a real problem at the convention. >> at the convention, newt and rick will give speeches in support of romney. >> did you see the movie "game change"? >> i did. >> mccain comes off as the man in the room. >> okay. who wins tonight in mississippi? >> i think romney has a chance to win it. >> i think gingrich wins both. >> who wins alabama? >> that one is going to be closer with newt having a little
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edge. after all -- >> would you like to see newt gingrich president? >> i picked my candidate. >> if it was newt versus the president, who would you vote for? >> newt. >> not me. >> you're not faking your accent either. i can tell. senator john bro and trent lot. you're watching "hardball," only on msnbc. [ male announcer ] to the 5:00 a.m. scholar. the two trains and a bus rider. the "i'll sleep when it's done" academic.
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morning with a biscuit and some cheesy grits this morning. i'll tell you. >> everything romney knows about the south he learned from a jeff e foxworthy routine. if your kind of fireworks is firing people at work -- seriously where is he get iting this stuff? >> mitt is the right guy for the job. >> if you have a car on your front lawn cause your garage only holds five cars, if you think clover field was a movie about your butler, you might be a romney. >> you might just be a red neck. but jeff foxworthy get hit with more than he bargained for. let's listen to him. >> i'm looking forward to going hunting some time and you can tell me which end of the rifle.
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>> do you think he's up for the challenge? fox worthy was asked about it later and had this zinger for his guy romney. that sounds for change than cheney. if you ask me. we may start with a bb gun and end with a rifle. former vice president dick cheney accidentally shot a friend on a hunting trip in 2006. we're not going to forget. up next, rick santorum and newt gingrich hope to deliver a knockout blow to the're guy. we have two strategists from both candidates joining us next. you're watching "hardball," only on msnbc. [ laura ] maine is known for its lighthouses, rocky shore, and most importantly, its lobster. it's the tastiest, the sweetest, the freshest. nobody can ever get enough. [ male announcer ] it's lobsterfest at red lobster, the one time of year you can savor 12 exciting lobster entrees
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i'm kelly evans with your cnbc market wrap. the dow jumped 218 points. the s&p gained 25. the nasdaq up 56 to close above 3,000 for the first time since december of 2000. jp morgan said they are raising their dividend and buying back sha shares. it followed a better chan expected report on retail sales. and the federal reserve kept interest rates unchanged. that's it from cnbc, first in news. now back to "hardball." the reality of the situation is if this race continues on its current pace, it's going to be difficult for anyone to get to the number of delegates that's
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necessary to get the majority at the convention. that's what the math is showing. >> we stayed in the race for two reasons. i don't believe the other two candidates can beat obama and i think the race is most important in our lifetime and i will not leave the field. >> welcome back to "hardball." rick santorum and newt gingrich vow to stay in the republican race, but in order for one of them to prevail as the antiromney candidate, the other has to get out eventually. what will tonight's results mean for the future of both santorum and gingrich? they both have to win down there. jo john brave bender joins us. thank you both. rick santorum told glen beck that newt gingrich has nowhere else to go. by the way, this is the argument. he wins in his region, kelly ann. he doesn't win outside it. he hasn't beaten third place anywhere else. what's he doing if he can't win in alabama tonight?
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listen to the logic and then you respond. let's watch. >> i think gingrich has shown no ability to get votes outside the state of georgia. and that's really -- those primaries are over. they will have had had their primaries. illinois is next. the polls there showing romney now running in a dead heat race. and whether he does well or not, i don't think it's going to matter much. he's just not attracting votes anywhere else. it would be great if he would get out of the race. clearly, the vast majority of the votes that he's taking are coming from me. >> how do you handle that, kelly ann? the fact that newt gingrich, smart as hell. everybody knows he has the brains and can talk his way out of anything. how does he talk his way out of the deep south? south carolina his big win and then georgia, he had a majority
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there. if he can't win in alabama tonight, can he win anywhere el else? >> chris, if he wins alabama tonight, we won two of the five largest states in terms of delegate count. florida, ohio, tennessee, georgia, and alabama. those five states have awarded the highest number of delegates to date. it does make him competitive. there are other southern states. the fact you're talking to a santorum strategist and gingrich strategist after super tuesday is a nightmare for the romney campaign. they rigged the schedule to make sure the front runner put it away long before super tuesday. now he has to face other states, km of which in the south. texas is not until may. we have governor perry and supporters with us. you have arkansas coming up. kentucky, north carolina, you
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see what happens. you've seen it with newt and rick and herman cain. when you start to win, you see a snowball effect. the money comes in. nothing speaks to your eligibility like winning. newt does well tonight. that will snowball. >> okay. so i guess the answer is -- she didn't quite answer. tell me if i'm wrong. >> they are going to win alabama. >> this they don't, what happens? >> they have to win alabama and mississippi. rick santorum was right. these are the states closest to newt gingrich. these are the ones he has to blow everybody out of the water. if he can't win here, it becomes less favorable. that puts him in a position where he's taking votes away from another conservative and that helps mitt romney, and we all know that. >> what happens if your candidate wins mississippi tonight and gingrich wins alabama? >> i don't nope. we'll have to see. it's a bad night for romney if that happens. but i will say this. rick santorum is the only one, so far, that's proven he can win in the midwest in places like
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iowa and north dakota. last week he won in tennessee. >> kelly ann, listen to this argument. if he can win one of the two states tonight, he can look forward to, this is santorum, can look forward to a pretty good situation where he's running within the margin of error with romney. he's ahead of him in louisiana. he's ahead of everybody by 16 in wisconsin on april 3rd. and in pennsylvania, his home state, he's way up by 18. so if your guy can do something tonight to stay in this game, he can win a whole bunch in the near future. >> i think the fact he just won kansas on saturday by getting more votes than all of the other candidates combined, newt gingrich in the last seven weeks, other than his home state, his best is next to last. the problem is we're letting the minorities of the party select our nominee. the moderates are selecting
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romney. if e we don't get behind a conservative, that's going tb a disaster. >> kelly ann? your thought on that. don't you have to unite? >> we will. if you want to nominate a conservative, it has to be a full spectrum conservative. people presume if you're social conservative, which is the hard one to be, that you're a fiscal conservative. his record in the senate is one of big spending. he voted to raise the debt ceiling five times. bridge to nowhere, they flow people like that out. when he was in leadership for five years, they didn't balance a single budget. they create 11 million new jobs. when people realize that social conservatives doesn't make a fiscal conservative, i have been at polling for 24 years. i have never heard a voter describe themselves as a social conservative, but a fiscal moderate. usually, it's the other way
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around. people say i'm a fiscal conservative but a social moderate. so people have gotten to know mitt romney and don't believe he's one of them. i think people they don't know him well enough. you have to let this play out and give people the dignity to see who they want as their nominee. >> i think we have a senator from pennsylvania that meets that. >> bob casey. when you tested newt gingrich last, did you test his support for the bailouts or mandates or sitting on the coach with nancy pelosi fighting for cap and trade? i'm not sure those go with conservatives sometimes. >> i sat next to him and he said that the plan looked like something that was written by putin and not paulson. at the same time, i think the point here is that here we are very late in the process. pretty late in the process.
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i don't think in romney's tabbed binder there's something that says open convention. that would be a real prospect here. chris, conservatives don't want this to be 1996 and 2008 all over again where you nominate the guy who lost the previous time. >> i would like to see an -- kelly ann, you know i'd love to see an open convention sitting in the balcony and watching. you said your candidate will win tonight. if he doesn't, he doesn't. thank you. up next, we have another poll suggesting president obama's poll numbers may be falling as a result of the price of gas going up. this is a bad pattern. some challenge it. but there is a bad pattern here breaking for the president. especially among women. this is "hardball," only on msnbc. ♪
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we're back. for a second time this week, a well-respected poll has shown a significant drop in president obama's approval rating. the poll shows president obama's job approval down to 41%, down nine points from just a month ago. and an all-time low on that poll. interesting stuff. the economy is improving, so what could account for the sudden drop? gas prices could be. according to aaa, the average price is $3.81, which is a lot more for super. a 30-cent increase in regular in a month. dan bowl is chief correspondent for the "washington post." i want to start with dan about
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these numbers. what's your sense put iting together your poll yesterday and again this yesterday this one, people have been skeptical about it but these two are ringing together the same anthem here, people are really reacting to these gas prices. >> chris, i think that's right. i think the' -- there are a couple of things going on. one, we know that people are somewhat hopeful about the direction of the economy. and i think the last couple of months or the last month or so, that has helped president obama. i think at the same time, people are still very nervous about how sustainability the recovery is and i think when you get a spike in gasoline prices like we've seen, people get very nervous and they begin to register negatively. so i think that's part of what's going on. i think the second thing is we know that this is just a volatile electorate, particularly swing voters who are moving back and forth. we have seep in the republican primaries how volatile people
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are about what their choices are. i think what we see in some of these overall national number suss the volatility that's still out there at least with a part of the electorate. >> i think it's showing, in these numbers, men as well as women, or women as well as men, the president lost support among men by four points, he lost a whopping 12 points among women since just february. jonathan, this is what i want to get to, think about a number of things, men and women both have to go to the gas pump, male and female both may have to go to work but at homeworking at home, they have to drive the kids around, they got to go on shopping trips, move around and oftentimes, put the gas in the car. especially pick the husband up, for example, some old traditional relationships pick them up at the train station and bus stop, they are putting the gas in the car, having to account for that emotionally and financially, that money hurts. you know, $50 to $70 to fill the tank a couple times a week. look at this people under 50,000 a year, look at the drop. 16-point drop among people that make between 30 and 50.
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in other words, people who drive the longest for the least amount of income are getting screwed the most by the gas price and holding it against the president and a lot of them are democrats. >> yeah because, chris, those are the folks hit hardest by this, obviously. if you are making less than 50 k a year and having to go fill up your car, your truck for, you know, four-plus bucks a gallon, obviously, you are going to notice that once, probably twice a week. so, it is obviously creating difficult headwinds for the president. the other thing i would point out, i think that gingrich has . i was at a candidate for him in birmingham last night, his pitch is i want to drill more and this president wants to try to put algae in your gas tank effectively. obviously, that's bit of rhetoric there, but it plays well a conservative crowd that this president is more interested in green energy than he is in actually drilling and
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finding more oil and gas here. >> dan, take a look at these new matchups now in the "new york times" poll. obama, 47. mitt romney, 44. obama, 48, santorum, 44. a couple things come out of that one is the closeness of the two matchups and secondly, the closest between the two republicans in the matchups. >> yes. i think that's right, chris, but again, i think it does go back to the fact that we have been in a period when i think some democrats have gotten a little overconfident about the prospects of november. >> i agree. >> but if you talk to the people who are running the president's campaign, other democrats around the country, they anticipate that when all of this republican primary battle ends and they get focused on the general election and people begin to look at the choice it is going to be a very tight election. president obama won 53% in 2008 under ideal circumstances and nobody thinks that it is going to be like that in the fall.
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>> let me ask you, dan and then jonathan. do you think people vote on the incumbent, the pitcher who is out there or look at the choice the competence, the success of the pitcher out there the guy who is president is that the primary factor is it the choice they look at watching debates or something like that? >> well, i think in any re-election campaign, it tends to be much more about the incumbent than it does about the challenger. having said that the challenger obviously has to meet a certain threshold and everything we are going to see over the next six months is that the democrats are going to do their best to try to discredit whoever ends up as the republican nominee. >> and jonathan -- your thought, john what is more important, the incumbent or the chance -- the choice? >> it is the incumbent, chris. that's why republicans privately will say we want it to be romney so the issue in the fall is the president and it is not our nominee. that's why they want romney. it is because he is the hippocratic oath candidate, first, do no harm.
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>> so true. i cannot tell the number of people not afraid of the guy. that is the scary part. people don't fear romney, because they think he is the moderate. >> fear seen more newt is the fall election would be as much, perhaps even more about them than about an incumbent facing serious challenges. >> well said. dan and jonathan, great guests. thanks so much for coming on "hardball" tonight. when we return, let me finish with how truly close this election is getting and not just on the republican side. you are watching "hardball," only on msnbc. . since ameriprise financial was founded back in 1894, they've been committed to putting clients first. helping generations through tough times. good times. never taking a bailout. there when you need them. helping millions of americans over the centuries. the strength of a global financial leader. the heart of a one-to-one relationship. together for your future. ♪
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let me finish tonight with this, this there is a chance the competition for the republican nomination could break open, wide open tonight at last. look at the closeness between santorum and romney, the new matchup with us president obama. both, both these guys are either within the margin of error with the president or just slight underdogs. this tell us with all the hard-right talk by santorum, there has been a lot of it he is still seen by voters as about the same as romney you can the man who makes efforts not calling obama socialist, not saying's tea partier, to keep himself in contentious with those in the political middle, but the polls tell us something else, how much the republican nomination is worth it is apparently worth a lot. people, as i said, are divided very closely on either sticking with the president right now or going with one of his potential adversaries, either romney or santorum, believe it or not. why? because of gasoline prices going up. or going up because of that or because of the

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Hardball With Chris Matthews
MSNBC March 13, 2012 2:00pm-3:00pm PDT

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